Top-ranked Iga Swiatek beats Vekic to win San Diego title

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SAN DIEGO — Top-ranked Iga Swiatek overcame a challenge from qualifier Donna Vekic to win the San Diego Open title 6-3, 3-6, 6-0.

Swiatek earned her tour-leading 64th victory of the season heading into the WTA Finals that begin Friday in Fort Worth, Texas. The event features the tour’s top eight singles and doubles teams.

The 21-year-old won her eighth title of the season, including the French Open and U.S. Open earlier this year.

“I’ve worked hard with my coach and my psychologist to keep focused on those moments that make it easier to close the match,” Swiatek said. “I just wanted to be proactive in making my shots.”

Speaking in her native Polish, Swiatek thanked the vocal Polish contingent that exhorted her with chants of “Iga! Iga!”

“I wanted to be the one who hit the last ball in, use my patience more and not think too much,” said Swiatek, who ascended to world No. 1 some seven months ago following the surprise retirement of Australia’s Ash Barty.

Swiatek was awarded a winner’s check of $116,340 along with a yellow surfboard.

Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula won the doubles final, defeating Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico 1-6, 7-5, (10-4). Top-seeded Gauff and Pegula had to play two full matches on Sunday because rain postponed the semifinal match.

After Vekic won the second set, Swiatek left no doubt about her dominance in the final set with her array of topspin cross-court forehands and looping shots that flustered her tiring opponent.

“I managed to win the second set, but in the third I just hit the Iga wall,” said Vekic, who came into the first-year WTA event as an unseeded qualifier, winning seven matches in eight days.

“She played out of this world,” the Croatian added. “She showed why she’s definitely the best player in the world right now.”

An unlikely finalist, Vekic, ranked 77th, reached the finals only a few hours before her match with Swiatek, claiming a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (2) semifinal win over unseeded Danielle Collins of the U.S.

Spread over two days due to Saturday night’s two lengthy rain delays, the Vekic-Collins match totaled three hours, including Sunday’s 32-minute finish. Collins re-started with a 4-2 edge in the third set, but Vekic battled back to earn the finals berth.

Novak Djokovic to start 2023 in Adelaide ahead of Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic will open his 2023 campaign in Adelaide as he prepares for a shot at a 10th Australian Open crown a year after having his visa revoked on the eve of his title defense.

The 21-time major winner has been granted a visa by the Australian government and has been listed to play at the Adelaide International, which starts Jan. 1.

Serbia isn’t contesting the inaugural United Cup team competition, leaving Djokovic free to play regular warmup tournaments head of the Jan. 16-29 Australian Open.

He’ll be joined in the men’s draw at Adelaide by Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada and Andy Murray.

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka will headline the women’s draw.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles last month confirmed Djokovic had been granted a visa to compete in Australia in January. The 35-year-old Serbian had been facing a possible three-year ban after being deported last January over his stance against COVID-19 vaccination.

Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times, including the last three times he played. Rafael Nadal won this year’s title in Djokovic’s absence.

Djokovic was not vaccinated against COVID-19 when he arrived in Melbourne ahead of the 2022 tournament, but Australia has since lifted strict rules for unvaccinated travelers.

Karolina Pliskova reuniting with Sascha Bajin

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Two-time Grand Slam finalist Karolina Pliskova is reuniting with coach Sascha Bajin ahead of the 2023 season.

Pliskova posted on her website and her Twitter account about the move, which comes about six months after she and Bajin stopped working together. The pair originally teamed up in November 2020.

While Bajin was her coach, Pliskova reached the final at Wimbledon in 2021 before losing to champion Ash Barty. Pliskova also was the runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open, where she defeated Serena Williams in the semifinals before being beat by Angelique Kerber for the trophy.

After splitting from Bajin in July, Pliskova was coached by Leos Friedl. Their results together included a quarterfinal run at the U.S. Open.

Bajin has worked as a coach or hitting partner with several top tennis players, including Grand Slam title winners Williams, Naomi Osaka, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki.

“Thank you for having me back,” Bajin wrote on Twitter. “Let’s go get it.”

Pliskova is a 30-year-old from the Czech Republic who reached No. 1 in the WTA rankings in 2017 and finished this season at No. 31 after going 21-21 with no titles.

Her team also includes fitness specialist Jez Green and physiotherapist Martin Salvador.

Next year’s first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, begins Jan. 16.